A New Restaurant And A New Way To Pay

Have you heard of LevelUp? It's a new way to pay and get deals at participating restaurants. You simply sign up and download the app on your phone and then use it to pay. LevelUp recently contacted me to see if I'd be interested in trying out the app. They gave me some credit to use, and I was off checking their site to figure out which participating restaurant we should try.

I saw that Abigail's, a new restaurant in Kendall Square, was on the list and thought it would be fun to go there. We live pretty close to Kendall Square, and I always like finding new go-to restaurants nearby. So on Friday night in the pouring rain, Jeff and I drove down to Kendall and drove in circles for a while trying to figure out where to park. We finally found the Kendall Square South Garage, which is just a couple blocks from Abigail's and has an $8 flat rate in the evenings.

Abigail's doesn't take reservations for parties of fewer than six people, so we knew we were taking our chances heading there on a Friday evening, but when we got in, the hostess told us it would be about a 20-minute wait. That sounded reasonable to us. We snagged some seats at the bar and started looking over the wine list to pass the time. The bartender came over to talk to us about the wines and recommended an off-list bottle: Adelsheim Auxerrois 2009.

We sampled the wine, liked it, and decided to get a bottle. The bartender described it as a combination of an unoaked chardonnay and pinot gris. I found that the longer the wine sat open, the more it developed welcome crisp pear flavors.

We sipped our wine at the bar for a while -- about 40 minutes -- and I decided to go over and check on the status of our table. The hostess told me we were next on the list, and it should be about 10 minutes. So we kept waiting. About 5 minutes later, our table was ready. We paid for our wine at the bar, and then the hostess showed us to a table -- a wobbly high-top in the bar area. I was disappointed to say the least. I didn't really wait all that time to be seated at a bar table, and a shaky one at that. Luckily, I was enjoying my wine, so I let it go and began looking over the menu.

We wanted to try a few different things to get a good sense of the food, so we decided to share the Gouda fries with chicken gravy and bacon, the chicken and mushroom skewers, and the cucumber salad to start.

After we placed our order, our waitress brought over some fresh focaccia bread and olive oil. The bread had a nice crust and a chewy texture and helped take the edge off while we waited for our appetizers.

The chicken and mushroom skewers were lightly seasoned and the chicken had a tasty char on it. Some tender sesame broccoli complemented the meatier textures of the chicken and mushrooms.

The cucumber salad really impressed me (and Jeff). The menu described it as having bibb lettuce, pickled red onions, feta cheese, and honey marjoram vinaigrette and made no mention of the gorgeous tomatoes that adorned the plate. My eyes lit up when I saw them. The dressing and pickled onions added loads of flavor to this seemingly simple dish.

Of all the appetizers, I thought I would love the Gouda fries best. I mean they're fries, covered with Gouda, chicken gravy, and bacon -- how could I not love them? Unfortunately, I found them under-seasoned and too light on the bacon. Our waitress noticed we hadn't cleaned the plate, and I mentioned that I thought they were good but I had higher expectations of them. When she came back, she told us she was taking them off the bill since we were disappointed. I thought that was a really nice thing to do (and a smart move on the part of a new restaurant). I hope the chef works out the kinks and knocks it out of the park with those fries next time.

For our entrees Jeff opted for the grass-fed boneless ribeye, and I went with the all-natural bone-in pork chop.

The pork chop, cooked to medium and moist and juicy, came with honey roasted grapes, black pepper dumplings, and mustard greens. I was really intrigued by the black pepper dumplings but thought they tasted more like nutmeg than black pepper. And while the word dumpling makes me think light and pillowy, these were dense and dry. At least the pork chop was really good and the honey roasted grapes made for an unusual and tasty pairing. I even enjoyed the mustard greens, and I am usually not a greens person.

Jeff's ribeye came out medium, just like he ordered, and was topped with a rich marrow butter and prepared with green peppercorn demiglace. He thought it was juicy and seasoned very well. I stole a few bites and can confirm that.

We were very full at this point and planning to leave without dessert, but our waitress talked us into trying the flourless chocolate cake. She described it as a really fudgy brownie with walnuts, served with ice cream from Toscanini's and a tart cherry sauce. And that's exactly what it was. The cake was definitely more brownie-like than cake-like. Jeff enjoyed the ice cream, and I was smitten with the sour cherry sauce.

Finally, we could eat no more, and it was time to pay with the LevelUp app. When our waitress brought the bill, I explained that I wanted to use the app, and she went to get another phone, which she used to scan a QR code on my phone.

I was even able to set the tip percentage using the app and didn't have to do the math myself.

It was quick and easy. Just for using the app at Abigail's, we got $5 off our bill, and as I mentioned above, LevelUp gave me global credit to use for dinner. According to LevelUp, the more I pay with the app, the more credit I can unlock at different participating restaurants. Since it was so easy to pay with the app, I can definitely see myself using it again.

I can also definitely see myself returning to Abigail's. Our waitress (Rebecca) was really sweet and attentive. She knew the menu well and knew exactly what to do when I wanted to use the LevelUp app. We had some great dishes and some okay dishes and a nice bottle of wine. I liked the atmosphere and hope to return for dinner (or maybe brunch) some time soon. Abigail's is definitely a welcome addition to Kendall. I do a silent cheer each time a new restaurant moves in.

What new restaurants have you been to lately? What do you think of using an app on your phone to pay for dinner?

Abigail's on Urbanspoon